Student Experience Research Network Blog

We know from research that environments that support students’ belonging – and in turn, their well-being and academic achievement – are those in which practices, policies, and norms respect each student’s identity, affirm each student’s capacity to succeed, and value each student’s agency. Drawing on research to create and sustain these types of learning environments is more important than ever as students and educators continue to navigate the effects of the pandemic as well as the politicized context around topics related to equity and inclusion in education.

With that in mind, a new professional learning presentation developed through Student Experience Research Network’s Belonging Collective synthesizes the research on belonging-supportive learning environments in an accessible and practical format.

The presentation materials – a facilitator’s guide, slide deck, and talking points – are customizable and designed to be relevant for a range of audiences in K-12 education in the United States, including teachers, school and district leaders, teacher educators, and intermediary organization staff. They encompass up to three hours of presentation and activity time that can take place across one or multiple sessions.

Leaders at Branch Alliance for Educator DiversityCenter for Educational LeadershipCity YearEL EducationEqual Opportunity SchoolsLeading EducatorsTeach for AmericaTNTP, and Zearn worked together over the past months to compile and develop resources for applying research on belonging-supportive learning environments. Along with the professional learning presentation, the members of the Belonging Collective completed a landscape scan of currently available tools for measuring belonging and belonging-supportive environments, and participated in a series of meetings to give and receive feedback on their internal research agendas and processes related to studying student belonging.

View the facilitator’s guide to learn about the objectives of the presentation and find everything you need to prepare as a facilitator.

View the presentation deck to access customizable slides and talking points.

The professional learning presentation opens with a warm-up activity designed to help participants make a personal connection to the topic and to prompt participants toward a more nuanced definition of belonging. The next section – “What is belonging?” – offers an overview of the ways in which students assess their belonging based on cues in the environment, and how belonging relates to a range of academic and social outcomes.

Grounded in this foundational knowledge, the presentation goes on to illustrate various practices, policies, and norms that shape students’ belonging and provides examples and frameworks that can help participants make shifts in their environment. The final section – “What does this mean for my context?” – creates additional space for processing and reflection using one of three activities.

We hope that these materials, which reflect insights from a group of innovative organizations as well as an extensive body of interdisciplinary research, can supplement the expertise that already exists across the education sector in supporting students’ learning and well-being.

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